Despite good but not great stats, why do people consider Betts one of the best in the game? Analyzing his value, and who actually won his trade to the Dodgers.
Mookie Betts isn't a top three MLB player. He isn't a top five player, he isn't a top ten player, and honestly, I'd slot him in around twenty. And I'm not exaggerating. There really is no reason that he should be considered one of the best players in baseball. He is not one of the best average hitters, he is not one of the best power hitters. He is a good defensive player, but so is Jackie Bradley Jr., and he is still a very bad overall player.
I'm a statistical person. I'm going to judge players based on what they actually do. And the fact is, Mookie Betts wasn't even the best player on the Red Sox last season. In fact, there were quite a few better than him.
I consider OPS the most important stat in baseball, and you should too. It is a combination of on base percentage and slugging percentage, so is able to benefit both average hitters, and power hitters. The formula flat out works. The top three players in the MLB last year in OPS? Christian Yelich, Mike Trout, and Cody Bellinger. Those are the undisputed top three non pitcher players in the league.
Mookie Betts ranked 23rd last year in OPS. By comparison, Xander Bogaerts and J.D. Martinez tied for 13th place, and Rafael Devers finished 21st. So now you can start to see why I am saying that Betts wasn't the best player on the Red Sox. I will consent that he was better overall than Devers, because of the youngster's horrific defense, but there really isn't much valid argument that he is better than either of Martinez or Bogaerts. One place where fans can go astray though is through WAR.
I'm going to be honest: I hate WAR. Through WAR, Betts jumps to seventh in the league, while Devers moves to 19, and Bogaerts to 20. Where is Martinez you might ask. Well, he has fallen all the way to seventy, and no, this does not include pitchers. I mean, that's absurd! You are going to tell me that the 13th best hitter according to OPS is actually the seventieth best position player just because he is a DH? So Red Sox fans, would you not take David Ortiz because he doesn't play the field?
Do you want proof that WAR really doesn't know what it's talking about? Remember that Bogaerts has the 13th best OPS and Devers has the 21st. Bogaerts was also insanely clutch last season, as he was one of the best hitters in the league with runners in scoring position. Devers in comparison had less home runs than Bogaerts, less RBI, and a .02 better average. He also had a worse on base percentage, an equal slugging percentage, worse OPS, and significantly worse defense, yet, you guessed it, he had a better WAR.
In addition, look up WAR, and every site, ESPN.com, MLB.com, baseballreference.com, you name it, they all have different definitions of WAR. No one can decide on what it actually is, and what actually goes into it. If you don't know what goes into the stat, then why on earth are you trusting it?
And the truth is, without WAR backing him up, Betts wasn't really anything special last season. He was 59th in the league in home runs and 23rd in the league in average. His RBI total ranked him 67th. Now I get it, obviously he will have a weaker RBI total than most stars because he hits leadoff, but remember that because he hits leadoff his hits and runs totals will be boosted in the other direction.
Now you are going to point out that he led the league in runs. Yes, that is a great feat, but he does have three stellar hitters sitting right behind him in the batting order. Your runs are going to get boosted when you are a leadoff hitter, especially on a team like the Red Sox that led the MLB in hits, and was fourth in total runs.
No doubt Betts was better in 2018 in his MVP winning season, although personally, I don't think he deserved that MVP. During the 2018 postseason Mookie had a .210 average and hit one home run, and the Red Sox still won the title, so how important/valuable was he actually? That is another story for another day though.
Most people considered his trade to the Dodgers a disaster for the Red Sox, but I really don't see it that way. The Red Sox gave up Betts and David Price, and got in return Alex Verdugo, Jeter Downs, and Connor Wong. Downs immediately slots in as the Sox best overall prospect, and Wong becomes their best catcher prospect (although that is not saying much). Verdugo will be in the Red Sox starting lineup when (or if) the season returns. He will likely replace Betts at the leadoff position.
I know it's tough to swallow trading a star like Betts away, but he wasn't going to re-sign in Boston. He just wasn't. They had to get something for him, instead of just losing him for nothing this coming offseason. It was a tough decision to make, but Chaim Bloom and the Sox did make the right one. And, if Verdugo shines the way that many expect him to, and he has the potential to, Sox fans might start forgetting about Betts quicker than they had thought.
In addition, now that David Price has chosen not to play in 2020, it makes the trade seem even better for the Red Sox, and they save $6 million. So overall, the Dodgers are getting 60 games of Mookie Betts (plus playoffs), and two years of David Price on a contract worth too much. The Red Sox are getting someone with a ton of potential in Alex Verdugo, and already their best overall prospect in Jeter Downs. Seems like a win for Boston to me.